By Daniel Hunter
Today (Thursday) Virgin announces the launch of Virgin StartUp, a not-for-profit company, which will offer financial support, mentoring and business advice to thousands of young entrepreneurs across the UK.
Working with The Start-Up Loans Company (SULC) as a delivery partner, Virgin StartUp will provide loans to entrepreneurs between the ages of 18-30 across the UK.
At its East London launch in BoxPark, Shoreditch, Sir Richard Branson was joined by James Caan, Chairman of SULC, Sir Tom Shebbeare, Chairman of Virgin StartUp, Kevin Horne, Chairman of the Cavendish Consortium and Richard Reed, Co-Founder of Innocent Drinks and a key supporter of the scheme.
Virgin will invest in a central team to manage the new company. It will draw on resources from Virgin to help promote the scheme. The new initiative is collaboration between Virgin, the Cavendish Consortium (made up of six of the largest enterprise agencies across England) and the National Enterprise Network.
In addition, Virgin StartUp has the support of Virgin’s UK companies including: Virgin Trains, Virgin Money, Virgin Media, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Active, Virgin Care and its not-for-profit foundation Virgin Unite. These companies will provide access to staff mentors, marketing and media support, business advice, as well as space to host networking and promotional events.
Sir Richard Branson commented: "I started my first business with a handful of coins out of a phone-box at school, but it was the £300 from my mum that really kick-started our Student magazine and sparked the Virgin adventure 40 years ago. Today, young people need that same help and I believe Virgin StartUp will provide it - with access to early capital, strong mentorship, advice and promotion. We look forward to helping launch thousands of new businesses as a delivery partner of The Start-Up Loan Company across the UK in years to come."
Mei Shui, formerly Head of Enterprise at The Prince’s Trust, then Executive Director at The Start Up Loans Company, heads the Virgin StartUp team and will administer, manage and market the Virgin StartUp company to bring in additional loans to the programme. Sir Tom Shebbeare, former Chief Executive of The Prince’s Trust and now Chairman of Virgin Money Giving and Spring Films will chair the new Company providing strategic guidance on the range and scope of the assistance to young entrepreneurs. Virgin StartUp also plans to develop a widespread mentoring programme and a series of regional events to promote new businesses and showcase established entrepreneurial expertise.
Virgin StartUp follows the successful pilot programme in the North East involving Virgin Money. This initiative, launched in October 2012, is a consortium between Virgin Money, Virgin Unite, The Northern Rock Foundation and Project North East to deliver start-up loans. In the last 11 month it has backed more than 100 businesses and lent £600,000 in funding.
Sir Tom Shebbeare, chairman of Virgin StartUp commented: “Running The Prince's Trust for 15 years taught me that great leadership, sound advice, committed mentors and affordable finance can combine to create tens of thousands of sustainable businesses and jobs. Our year-long pilot in the North East gives me every confidence that the entire Virgin group combining with our experienced partners will deliver a unique experience for young entrepreneurs right across Britain."
Lord Young, Founder of Start Up Loans Company commented: "I am delighted that Virgin StartUp is being launched and I look forward to it playing an important part in the Start Up Loans programme and transforming and enriching the lives of many and giving them a chance to fulfil their aspirations."
In support of the initiative, Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent Drinks, said: “This country is full of entrepreneurial talent; ready, willing and able to build the businesses of the future, they just need access to the funds to get started. That’s what is so great about Virgin StartUp — it will provide the cash and advice so the entrepreneurs can do their thing.”
Zoe Jackson, Founder and Managing Director, Living The Dream Company who benefitted from the Virgin Media Pioneers programme said: “I was delighted to be selected by Virgin Media Pioneers who provided me with a mentor and gave me invaluable insight into how I could take my business to the next level. This support has enabled me to develop connections and learn more about running my business effectively. I am proud to be the ambassador for London for Virgin Media Pioneers and plan to help Virgin on its mission to inspire and support the next generation of young entrepreneurs."
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